The pro-business group Colorado Concern wrote a half-page letter in Sunday’s Denver Post encouraging Gov. John Hickenlooper to call a special session to reclassify a hospital provider fee as an enterprise to free up hundreds of millions in the state budget.
The legislature shot down this proposal during the regular 2016 session, which ended earlier this month.
The state’s hospital provider fee program requires hospitals to pay a fee for each overnight patient and the number of outpatient services provided. That money is currently used, among other things, to pay for low-income residents’ health care.
Democrats and some Republicans argue that money is needed to pay for education and transportation.
Hickenlooper told reporters after the session ended that he might bring lawmakers back to the Statehouse to reclassify the fee this year.
The letter encouraging him to do so stated: “We recognize that the charged political atmosphere of the times can make collaboration difficult; still, we believe the legislature has an obligation to forge real solutions to matters of public concern.”
Lawmakers, including Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, a Boulder Democrat, have attempted for two years to convert the fee into an enterprise.
Senate President Bill Cadman, a Colorado Springs Republican, announced before the session started, that the legislature’s attorneys said such a conversion would be unconstitutional. But the state’s current Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman and her predecessor, John Suthers, both Republicans, argued the conversion would be allowed under state law.
The letter lists more than 100 organizations, including city governments, colleges, medical providers, and liberal and conservative groups that want a special session.
“The governor saw the ad,” said his spokesperson Kathy Green. “He has no set timeline on the special session decision.”
Of dozens of lobbyists and organizations that weighed in on the 2016 proposal to reclassify the fee, only one opposed it: Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group founded by billionaire industrialists, David and Charles Koch.
In February, Senate President Cadman celebrated his party’s alliance with Americans for Prosperity.
“AFP is a partner of ours…I don’t think I’d be the president of the Senate if it wasn’t for the efforts of you and yours in the previous elections. We look forward to continuing our partnership with you,” he said.
Cadman steadily led the charge against reclassifying the fee and will likely do so if an extra session is called.
Photo credit: Colorado Senate GOP